While Dragon Ball fans can endlessly debate the comparative strengths of Goku and Vegeta, one “fact” that has found almost universal agreement among its fan base is that the series’ creator, Akira Toriyama, never intended for it to last as long as it did, and had planned to end it after the Frieza saga. However, this popular theory is actually far from the truth, and Dragon Ball’s original editor has finally refuted it.
In his new book, “Dr. Mashirito’s Strongest Manga Technique,” Kazuhiko Torishima, the first editor to work with Toriyama in the development, launch, and direction of Dragon Ball, details many conversations he had with the legendary mangaka over the years. Some of these conversations included discussions about the end of Dragon Ball. As Torishima recalls, at some point during his tenure as editor, the idea began to circulate among fans that Toriyama had always planned to finish the series after the Frieza saga but was forced by either the editor (Torishima) or the publisher (Shueisha) to continue the series because it had become so popular. However, this simply wasn’t true.
Knowing Toriyama as well as he did, the rumor of ending the series after the Frieza saga seems to have amused Torishima. As he remembers, from the early days of planning the Dragon Ball series, Toriyama never had a long-term fixed idea of how the story would unfold. This point is corroborated by Toriyama himself, who in a 1995 interview stated, “I hadn’t really thought about it at all… and I hadn’t really prepared storyboards for more than three chapters.” So the idea that he knew from the start that he would finish the manga after the Frieza saga is incorrect. The real truth, as Torishima recalls, is that Toriyama understood that if the series continued after the Frieza arc, he would have to come up with an even stronger “villain.” Believing he wasn’t up to the task, Toriyama thought it would be best to end the series at that point, but he was obviously persuaded otherwise.
Torishima admits that Toriyama never expected the series to last long, a fact that Toriyama reiterated in the 1995 interview when he said, “I thought it would probably end in about a year.” However, as the series gained popularity, it became increasingly difficult to stop it, especially considering the rising fanbase, the expectations of his editors, the demands of the publisher, and most importantly, Toriyama’s own aspirations. So, while Toriyama never planned too far ahead, the ever-growing success of Dragon Ball always served as motivation to continue.
Dragon Ball exceeded its original goal and fan base and became a global pop culture phenomenon. However, if it weren’t for the push from the editor and writers, Dragon Ball would have had a much shorter lifespan and far less chance of becoming as popular and influential as it is today. Thanks to Torishima’s memoirs, the rumors that Akira Toriyama initially planned to end Dragon Ball after the Frieza saga can finally be laid to rest.